The Atlanta Hawks, coming off two straight losses, picked up a huge win Wednesday night against western conference powerhouse, The Los Angeles Clippers. Despite not having Trae Young (out with a thigh injury), and a rough first half, the Hawks were able to close out a 21 point deficit and win 102-95. Granted, it should be noticed the Clippers were without stars Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Patrick Beverley.
Despite the circumstances, what went well for Atlanta, and what almost cost them a much-needed win?
We’ll start with what went wrong.
“Hate to start with the negative, but there’s nothing more disturbing than watching our guys in that first half,” Hawks Head Coach Lloyd Pierce said.
There’s no nice way of describing the Hawks 1st half performance, simply was one of the worst performances I’ve seen this year from them. They found themselves down 60-41, going into the half and looked like they were really missing Young. The offense was ice cold from the field, shooting 15-46 (33%), and the only spark seemed to be John Collins. In addition to the poor shooting, they racked up ten turnovers, which allowed Los Angeles to extend the lead to 21 at its highest. Also, the atrocious start took the energy completely out of the arena. For a long portion of the first half, the crowd was dead quiet; even the sixth man section couldn’t find a reason to get loud.
The poor shooting stats the Hawks put up was concerning, now granted they turned it around in the 2nd half, slow starts have been the killer for this young team all season. It seems to be a trend in which Atlanta’s offense starts ice-cold, they find themselves in a double-digit deficit, but by the time the offense starts to click, it’s simply too late. Going forward, Head Coach Lloyd Pierce needs to drill the fast starts into the heads of the players, especially if Young is ruled out going forward.
Rookies failed to step up offensively
Continuing on the trend of poor offensive performances, were the rookies. With Young out, it was there chance to step up and show everyone what they’re truly capable of. This was not the case Wednesday night however. Deandre Hunter struggled all game long to get the ball to fall, shooting 3-16 from the field and adding three turnovers to the equation. Cam Reddish struggled to get his points on the board as well. Reddish shot the ball 3-9 from the field. Granted the Hawks came away with the win, so you can’t fault them too much, but this was a real chance for the rookies to shine with Young’s giant offensive presence up in the air for someone to take.
Montrezl Harrell made his presence felt on both sides of the court all night long. The Clipper’s big man stepped up with Leonard, George and Beverley all sitting out, and put up a giant 30 points, 21 of which came in the first half. Offensively the Hawks frontcourt struggled to match his strength and athleticism. On the defensive end, Harrell tallied three blocks and five defensive rebounds. Atlanta struggled to find an answer for Harrell, especially with the rehabilitation game for Alex Len.
Despite the poor first half, the Hawk’s second-half performance showed a completely different team, allowing them to storm back and take the victory.
The only positive not limited to just the second half is John Collins. All night long, Collins was Atlanta’s offensive spark in times of need. During the poor 1st half performance, it was Collins that kept it from getting to be an even worse beat down than what it already was, scoring 17 points in the 1st half. Collins kept the offense rolling in the 2nd half, finishing the game with a team-high 33 points. In addition to the 33 points, Collins added 16 rebounds and finished with a +/- of +24. Also, Collins added some highlight plays down the stretch, which brought the crowd back into the game and electrified the arena. With Young day to day, if he happens to miss another game, it’s a must to see Collins take control of this team on both ends of the floor and be a real leader.
“When we got into that locker room at halftime, we just made an effort… to come out with more emphasis and energy. We did that and accomplished our goal,” Collins said.
Probably the most impressive stat of the entire game is the Hawk’s second-half defense. Atlanta held the Clippers to only 35 points for the entire second half. Without the defensive effort, given by the entire team, the comeback would have been impossible. Harrell offensively was completely suppressed, the backcourt held Lou Williams to 18, but on 6-19 from the field and 0-7 from three’s. The defense that came out in the second half should scare all NBA teams. To hold one of the best scoring teams in the league to only 35 points is beyond impressive. Obviously fans shouldn’t expect 35 points a half to be usual, but if the teams’ defense can give the same effort every game, there could be a real turn around for the Hawks this season.
Finally, we have Brandon Goodwin, who down the stretch came up huge for Atlanta. Goodwin who has shown real promise this season, showed everyone again why he deserves a permanent spot on an NBA roster. Goodwin scored 19 points off the bench for Atlanta and scored them when it mattered. As the Hawks crawled back to gain the lead late in the fourth quarter, it was Goodwin who play after play helped to maintain and extend the lead, getting to the basket or even getting fouled on three-pointers. With the backup spot for Young wide open, Goodwin is making a strong case that it needs to be him.
“I stay level-headed. I stay confident in myself. I stay in the gym, stay ready for my shot. It’s nothing new,” Goodwin said.
With this win, the Hawks improve to 11-34 on the year and look to escape being dead last in the Eastern Conference. Atlanta quickly turns around and heads to Oklahoma City to take on the Thunder, Friday, January 25th, and start to build up a winning streak.